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She gave to the world such types as the farmer Thomas Jefferson, with his Declaration of Independence, his statute for religious toleration, and his purchase of Louisiana. She gave us Andrew Jackson, that fierce Tennessee spirit who broke down the traditions of conservative rule, swept away the privacies and privileges of officialdom, and, like a Gothic leader, opened the temple of the nation to the populace. She gave us Abraham Lincoln, whose gaunt frontier form and gnarled, massive hand told of the conflict with the forest, whose grasp of the ax-handle of the pioneer was no firmer than his grasp of the helm of the ship of state as it breasted the seas of civil war. She has furnished to this new democracy her stores of mineral wealth, that dwarf of those of the Old World, and her provinces that in themselves are vaster and more productive than most of the nations of Europe. Out of her bounty has come a nation whose industrial competition alarms the Old World, and the masters of whose resources wield wealth and power vaster than the wealth and power of kings. Best of all, the West gave, not only to the American, but to the unhappy and oppressed of all lands, a vision of hope, and assurance that the world held a place where were to be found high faith in man and the will and power to furnish him the opportunity to grow to the full measure of his own capacity. Great and powerful as are the new sons of her loins, the Republic is greater than they. The paths of the pioneer have widened into broad highways. The forest clearing has expanded into affluent commonwealths. Let us see to it that the ideals of the pioneer in his log cabin shall enlarge into the spiritual life of a democracy where civic power shall dominate and utilize individual achievement for the common good.
PIONEER IDEALS AND THE STATE UNIVERSITY 1
The ideals of a people, their aspirations and convictions, their hopes and ambitions, their dreams and determinations, are assets in their civilization as real and important as per capita wealth or industrial skill.
This nation was formed under pioneer ideals. During three centuries after Captain John Smith struck the first blow at the American forest on the eastern edge of the continent, the pioneers were abandoning settled society for the wilderness, seeking, for generation after generation, new frontiers. Their experiences left abiding influences upon the ideas and purposes of the nation. Indeed the older settled regions themselves were shaped profoundly by the very fact that the whole nation was pioneering and that in the development of the West the East had its own part.
The first ideal of the pioneer was that of conquest. It was his task to fight with nature for the chance to exist. Not as in older countries did this contest take place in a mythical past, told in folk lore and epic. It has been continuous to our own day. Facing each generation of pioneers was the unmastered continent. Vast forests blocked the way; mountainous ramparts interposed; desolate, grass-clad prairies, barren oceans of rolling plains, arid deserts, and a fierce race of savages, all had to be met and defeated. The rifle and the ax are the symbols of the backwoods pioneer. They meant
1 Commencement Address at the University of Indiana, 1910.
a training in aggressive courage, in domination, in directness of action, in destructiveness.
To the pioneer the forest was no friendly resource for posterity, no object of careful economy. He must wage a handto-hand war upon it, cutting and burning a little space to let in the light upon a dozen acres of hard-won soil, and year after year expanding the clearing into new woodlands against the stubborn resistance of primeval trunks and matted roots. He made war against the rank fertility of the soil. While new worlds of virgin land lay ever just beyond, it was idle to expect the pioneer to stay his hand and turn to scientific farming. Indeed, as Secretary Wilson has said, the pioneer would, in that case, have raised wheat that no one wanted to eat, corn to store on the farm, and cotton not worth the picking.
Thus, fired with the ideal of subduing the wilderness, the destroying pioneer fought his way across the continent, masterful and wasteful, preparing the way by seeking the immediate thing, rejoicing in rude strength and wilful achieve
But even this backwoodsman was more than a mere destroyer. He had visions. He was finder as well as fighter the trailmcker for civilization, the inventor of new ways. Although Rudyard Kipling's "Foreloper "2 deals with the English pioneer in lands beneath the Southern Cross, yet the poem portrays American traits as well:
"The gull shall whistle in his wake, the blind wave break in fire,
2 [Printed from an earlier version; since published from Books," p. 93, under the title, "The Voortrekker." insight into the idealistic side of the frontier, is his "Collected Verse," p. 19.1
in his Songs Even fuller of
"Strong lust of gear shall drive him out and hunger arm his hand
Hard on his heels, a thousand wheels, a people and a king.
"He shall come back on his own track, and by his scarce cool camp,
ㄨ This quest after the unknown, this yearning "beyond the sky line, where the strange roads go down," is of the very essence of the backwoods pioneer, even though he was unconscious of its spiritual significance.
The pioneer was taught in the school of experience that the crops of one area would not do for a new frontier; that the scythe of the clearing must be replaced by the reaper of the prairies. He was forced to make old tools serve new uses; to shape former habits, institutions and ideas to changed conditions; and to find new means when the old proved inapplicable. He was building a new society as well as breaking new soil; he had the ideal of nonconformity and of change. He rebelled against the conventional.
Besides the ideals of conquest and of discovery, the pioneer had the ideal of personal development, free from social and governmental constraint. He came from a civilization based on individual competition, and he brought the conception with him to the wilderness where a wealth of resources, and innumerable opportunities gave it a new scope. The prizes were for the keenest and the strongest; for them were the best bottom lands, the finest timber tracts, the best salt-springs, the richest ore beds; and not only these natural gifts, but also the opportunities afforded in the midst of a forming society. Here were mill sites, town sites, transportation lines,
banking centers, openings in the law, in politics all the varied chances for advancement afforded in a rapidly developing society where everything was open to him who knew how to seize the opportunity.
The squatter enforced his claim to lands even against the government's title by the use of extra-legal combinations and force. He appealed to lynch law with little hesitation. He was impatient of any governmental restriction upon his individual right to deal with the wilderness.
In our own day we sometimes hear of congressmen sent to jail for violating land laws; but the different spirit in the pioneer days may be illustrated by a speech of Delegate Sibley of Minnesota in Congress in 1852. In view of the fact that he became the State's first governor, a regent of its university, president of its historical society, and a doctor of laws of Princeton, we may assume that he was a pillar of society. He said:
The government has watched its public domain with jealous eye, and there are now enactments upon your statute books, aimed at the trespassers upon it, which should be expunged as a disgrace to the country and to the nineteenth century. Especially is he pursued with unrelenting severity, who has dared to break the silence of the primeval forest by the blows of the American ax. The hardy lumberman who has penetrated to the remotest wilds of the Northwest, to drag from their recesses the materials for building up towns and cities in the great valley of the Mississippi, has been particularly marked out as a victim. After enduring all the privations and subjecting himself to all the perils incident to his vocation when